Discipline and Noise Levels

There are times when the issue of noise levels in schools should be addressed.

A teacher told me that she has been working on teaching procedures for appropriate noise levels. She believed her young students did not really know how to control their voices very well and needed specific instructions. 

She continued to share with me:

“I have been telling them that when they are sitting at their table group they should have ‘Table Group voices.’ That means only their table group needs to and should hear their voice. If someone at the next table hears them or if I hear them, then it’s too loud. I added ‘Partner voice.’

“They were doing an activity in pairs and I explained directly that their partner was the only one who needed to hear them. We talked about sitting close to their partner and making sure that he/she was the only one to hear. I think if we make a general statement of telling them to talk quietly, that it just isn’t enough to get them to understand how or why to do so. Of course this needs to be connected to the RRS with a conversation about what would someone behaving on Level xxx look like and sound like when talking with a partner (or in a group).

“Akin to Dr. Marshall’s alphabetical levels for behavior, I use a numerical level for noise.

• Level zero – silence.

• Level 1 – whispering, only the person you are whispering to should hear you.

• Level 2 – speaking voice, the one you use when having a conversation.

• Level 3 – group voice, the voice you use when giving a report to a group; this is the voice I use when teaching.

• Level 4 – playground voice, the voice you use when you are playing games, or shouting to your friends at recess.

• Level 5 – SCREAMING, this voice is what you use when you are hurt or in danger. The only time you might use this voice when you are not in danger is when you are cheering for a sports team.

“I tell students before we start every activity what noise level I expect.”

As I have continually suggested to teachers, if anything bothers you, TEACH A PROCEDURE. This is an excellent example of the approach. The traditional approach of relying on rules could never be as successful as teaching a procedure, as in this example.